Stimson Marine

Getting back to work

Tue, 12/18/2012 - 6:00pm

    David Stimson fought hard to keep his business afloat, but after a year of clashing with the town’s zoning laws, he said his time and money is running low, and relocating his boatbuiding operation to Belfast might be his best option.

    In August 2012, Boothbay's interim code enforcement officer Art Dunlap served Stimson a cease and desist order for an illegal manufacturing operation in a residential district. In November, the Boothbay Board of Appeals upheld the notice of violation, effectively banning Stimson from resuming his boatbuilding business.

    On December 13, Stimson was busy building a roof on his New England style barn. Although Stimson is allowed to build onto the barn, he is barred from working on the unfinished 50-foot steel schooner that sits inside.

    Stimson said he now wants to enter into a consent agreement with the Boothbay Board of Selectmen, in hopes that they will grant him the right to finish the schooner. Proceeds from the schooner would afford him to move his business out of Boothbay.

    A consent agreement is a written contract with the town that would temporary grant Stimson the right to resume his practice.

    Stimson said he was currently revising a draft, and will have his attorney Michael Kaplan look over it before submitting it to the board.  

    Since Stimson was issued a notice of violation, he said he fully complied to make sure the building and property were up to code.

    In the four months Stimson has been out of work, efforts to hash out a consent agreement with the town have been fruitless, partly because he was offered a consent agreement earlier but refused to sign it. If he had signed it, his career building boats in a residential zone would have effectively ended.

    So why is Stimson pursuing something that was originally offered to him in the first place?

    “Right now my most urgent priority is to get back to work,” he said.

    Entering into consent agreement could be the quickest solution to the dispute, which Stimson said he regards as a municipal mishandling of his family business.

    Boatbuilding in Belfast

    While his options remain open, Stimson said the town of Belfast seems a suitable place for his business and family.

    Steve White,  Front Street Shipyard partner and Stimson's friend, opened that shipyard on the Belfast waterfront in July 2011.  

    White told Stimson the town was incredibly helpful in facilitating the opening of their shipyard, and that he could never accomplish what they did without the help of Belfast's city planner, Wayne Marshall.

    Marshall said Belfast is a community that welcomes and encourages maritime activity. He said before helping Front Street Shipyard get started, the city worked with French & Webb, a local boatbuilder, for the past 20 years. The city allowed them to lease several city properties to help get their business off the ground.  

    “With the nature of David's business, it's not critical for him to be along the waterfront,” Marshall said. “David has been looking at some areas that allow commercial activity, such as boatbuilding, and he believes he has found several sites that could work.”

    Marshall said Stimson was interested in relocating his business to a mixed-use zoning district. “That district will allow a single family house, it will allow a duplex, it will allow boatbuilding, and it will allow a retail store,” he said.

    So far Stimson has not submitted any applications.

    For Stimson, boatbuilding has been a way life since he first learned the trade at the age of 15. Since 1981, Stimson spent most of his career building and repairing boats in the Boothbay Region.

    Stimson spent five years in Martha's Vineyard from 1997-2002, and returned back to Boothbay to resume his business, while also managing the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard from 2005-2009.